Retail sales during 2022’s November-December holiday season grew 5.3% over 2021 to $936.3 billion, reports the National Retail Federation (NRF), falling short of the organization’s forecast amid continuing inflation and high interest rates. Although holiday growth was less than expected, sales for the year grew 7 % over 2021 to $4.9 trillion, meeting NRF’s forecast of between 6% and 8% growth for the year.
“The last two years of retail sales have been unprecedented, and no one ever thought it was sustainable,” says Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Nonetheless, we closed out 2022 with impressive annual retail sales and a respectable holiday season despite historic levels of inflation and interest rate hikes to cool the economy. Consumers shopped in record numbers and retailers delivered positive holiday experiences to inflation-wary consumers….”
November-December holiday sales saw year-over-year gains in all but two of nine retail categories, led by online sales, grocery stores and general merchandise stores. Specifics from key sectors for the two months combined (all on an unadjusted year-over-year basis), include:
- Online and other non-store sales – up 9.5%
- Grocery and beverage stores – up 7.8%
- General merchandise stores – up 3.8%
- Sporting goods stores – up 3.5%
- Health and personal care stores – up 2.8%
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores – up 2.2%
- Building materials and garden supply stores – up 1.5%
- Furniture and home furnishings stores – down 1.1%
- Electronics and appliance stores – down 5.7%
“We knew it could be touch-and-go for final holiday sales given early shopping in October that likely pulled some sales forward plus price pressures and cold, stormy weather,” says Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “The pace of spending was choppy, and consumers may have pulled back more than we had hoped, but these numbers show that they navigated a challenging, inflation-driven environment reasonably well. The bottom line is that consumers are still engaged and shopping despite everything happening around them.”
The holiday results top the $889.3 billion spent during the 2021 holiday season and compare with NRF’s forecast that 2022 holiday retail sales would increase between 6% and 8% over 2021 to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion. The 2022 growth compares with 4.9% average holiday sales growth over the previous 10 years.
NRF’s calculation of retail sales excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail, and NRF defines the holiday season as November 1 through December 31.
The holiday total, which is not adjusted for inflation, includes online and other non-store sales, which were up 9.5% at $261.6 billion. NRF had forecast that the category would grow between 10% and 12% to between $262.8 billion and $267.6 billion. Online holiday sales were $238.9 billion in 2021.
For December alone, retail sales as defined by NRF were down 0.6% seasonally adjusted from November but up 5% unadjusted year over year. By comparison, sales were down 0.5% month over month in November after a surge of early holiday shopping in October but up 5.6% year over year. NRF’s numbers were also up 5.6% on a three-month moving average as of December.